"); NewWindow.document.close(); return false; }

Caring for abandoned HIV-positive babies
Thursday 31 March 2005
Home About PlusNews Country Profiles News Briefs Special Reports Subscribe Archive IRINnews


East Africa
Great Lakes
Horn of Africa
Southern Africa
·South Africa
West Africa
RSS - News Briefs


PlusNews E-mail Subscription

SOUTH AFRICA: Caring for abandoned HIV-positive babies

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Mavis Samuels and two of the orphaned babies awaiting adoption

DURBAN, 25 March (PLUSNEWS) - Mavis Samuels is part of the uMephi project (Zulu for 'To take shame away'), a national programme that searches for adoptive or foster parents for abandoned babies, many of whom are HIV-positive and have been orphaned by AIDS.

Samuels takes care of four abandoned and orphaned babies waiting for adoption in Chatsworth, a township near Durban on South Africa's east coast, and is one of 12 "housemothers" in seven of South Africa's nine provinces employed by the South African Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) Welfare Council.

As part of the initiative, housemothers are supported by uMephi caregivers and take care of up to six babies at a time.

To prevent creating a generation of "institutionalised children" who grow up separated from the rest of society, the Welfare Council decided a new approach was needed to address the rising number of AIDS orphans and HIV-positive youngsters.

"The HIV/AIDS pandemic made us realise that we need more than children's homes," said Helena Jackson, uMephi national project leader and the AFM Welfare Council's deputy director.

Since Samuels became a housemother in May 2004, she has cared for 11 babies, all of whom have found homes, she proudly told PlusNews. "Each time I have to let one of them go, I'm in agony," she said.

Whenever an infant leaves the halfway home, Samuels, like all other uMephi housemothers, prepares a memory box in which the baby's history is recorded. "Even though we generally know very little about the baby's past, we want to make sure they know where they have come from when they grow up," she explained.

Four-month-old Benjamin (Samuels names the children until they find new homes) is a recent addition to her family. Police found the sick and abandoned infant in a park in Durban a few weeks ago.

Most of the babies in the care of the uMephi project were abandoned in hospitals, brought to social workers or community aid organisations, found by the police under bridges or trees, and even in public toilets. "Most of the babies we find on the street still have their umbilical cords," said Jackson.

Many of the infants are abandoned as a result of unwanted pregnancies: some of the mothers had been raped; some suffered domestic violence, or were still children or teenagers themselves.

Soon after the AFM Welfare Council started the uMephi project in early 2004, a newborn baby girl, later called Hope by her caregivers, was found in critical condition in a public urinal in Gauteng province. After receiving medical treatment, she was brought to one of AFM's first foster homes and was adopted four months later.

Since it was launched the uMephi project has cared for about 1,200 babies - more than a third of them HIV-positive - most of whom have found homes with adoptive or foster parents.

"It takes us an average of six months to place a baby with adoptive parents," Jackson told PlusNews, adding that HIV-positive babies also found new homes quickly, although adoptive parents knew that they had to be prepared for shorter life expectancy, illness and trauma.

"We found that there is a great willingness to adopt or foster children within the South African population," she added.

In the event that a child does not find adoptive parents - a scenario Jackson says has not yet occurred - uMephi will place it in one of the 22 government-subsidised children's homes it also operates.

To place a baby with a housemother costs about US $322 per month. The South African government subsidises the organisation with US $50 per baby per month.


Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
Interview with Dr Nomonde Xundu, head of govt's HIV/AIDS unit,  30/Mar/05
Positive Muslims 'buddies' offer emotional support,  29/Mar/05
Sensitising programme delivers positive results,  11/Mar/05
AIDS drug tender announcement brings glimmer of hope for HIV-positive people ,  4/Mar/05
Capacity shortfalls undermine roll-out,  3/Mar/05
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making A difference for Children Affected by AIDS

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

[Back] [Home Page]

Click here to send any feedback, comments or questions you have about PlusNews Website or if you prefer you can send an Email to Webmaster

Copyright © IRIN 2005
The material contained on www.PlusNews.org comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
All PlusNews material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the IRIN copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.